With the Michigan BASS High School state finals wrapping up last weekend on Lake St. Clair one technique that played huge for us and many other was a drop shot. There is no denying what a great technique this is for catching clear water, highly pressured fish. It is extremely effective on those Great Lake smallmouth for many reasons but I wanted to write up a small post about some things I noticed that really make a difference when using a drop shot.
#1 Adjusting your knot so the bait is presented horizontally
Ok so this might not be the biggest factor but it is a small detail that gives me confidence helps with the presentation of the bait. When tying a drop shot you are using a palomar knot and taking the excess tag back in through the eye (hook point up) to then attach the weight below. If you notice, the hook will sit differently when the line is tight based on the position of the knot on the hook’s eye. I like to ensure the bait is presented most naturally and horizontally by adjusting that knot on the hook eye. This usually means moving the knot inside the eye and keeping it centered. If you have tied your knot correctly and cinched it tight it should not move very often. Horizontal presentation is natural and just a slight key to catching the most pressured fish in clear water. Obviously some baits aid with this horizontal presentation due to their construction (if you know you know) but most plastics need to have the hook situated in a way that keeps the bait more horizontal.
#2 & Keeping a semi slack line & Overworking the bait
When fishing a drop shot it is critical to not have too much slack or have your line to tight. Semi-slack line allows the bait to work naturally and still give you the feel to detect bites. Many times I see anglers giving too much slack in the line to a point they can’t feel the bait or keeping their line so tight it is hindering the action and making the bait perform unnatural movements.
This goes hand in hand with not overworking the bait. We see a lot of anglers move the bait way too much. Some use a lift and drop or large sweeps of the rod without realizing what this is actually doing to the bait. What it is doing is causing unnatural movement. This is especially critical if you are fishing in current. The worst thing you can do is not let the current do the moving of the bait. It is the most natural presentation and your best friend. When I fish a drop shot the most I do is shake the slack in my line or wiggle the bait always trying to leave my weight on the bottom. Less is more with the drop shot!
There are many different ways to set the hook and even with a drop shot it can vary from one expert to another. The few things we stress are:
- Having drag slightly tighter before a hookset
- Leaning and reeling into the fish
- Moving the rod straight up and not to the side
First, we want the drag slightly tighter on hookset to ensure the setting of the hook! It shouldn’t be so tight that the drag doesn’t go but it should be a sizeable amount of pressure that causes the drag to go. Too many times we have experienced or seen fish immediately come off due to creating slack during the initial hookset and this being compounded by a drag set way to low. When we feel the fish is hooked well then we begin to back off the drag. With smallmouth often their hardest runs aren’t until they see the boat so it is essential to be ready to adjust drag for these runs.
Second, we don’t want a hard hitting hook set. The hooks are small and should penetrate into the fish fairly easily. We like to lift, lean, and reel. This eliminates slack and burys that hook without a big ripping hookset that could tear a fish’s mouth.
Lastly, we have found that a straight up hookset helps with where you hook the fish. We prefer to hook a fish in the top of the mouth as this allows us to control the fish better. Ever hooked a fish in the side of the mouth or head and though it was way bigger? These hook locations allow the fish more control and ability to shake the hook. The top of the mouth puts us more in control of the fishes head and how it moves. While it is 100% of the time an upward movement will get the top of the mouth it is more successful than a side sweeping hookset from our experience.
#4 Casting vs. dragging
There is a time when both can work. On St. Clair dragging and drifting are famous ways to locate and catch the big smallmouth out there. If you are drifting and dragging a drop shot behind the boat then be sure to keep the semi slack line. Dragging behind the boat isn’t always the best practice while drifting though. Last week on St. Clair I was noticing many of my bites coming after the initial drop before I even had time to work my bait. I would pitch the bait 10-20 yards in front of the boat while drifting, allow the bait to fall vertically, then go to check the bait and it would feel weird or spongy……BITE! Once I realized 90% of my bites were coming like this and only 10% were coming after working the bait slowly to the boat I knew dragging wasn’t the way to go. Our guys needed to be pitching the bait around and dropping more times than dragging. Just this small realization increased the number of bites they had and when we were only getting 7-12 bites a day targeting bigger fish it made a difference. I also think we were able to get more bites this way due to not being directly over the fish. We were seeing fish on the graph all week but only maybe 1/15 would bite when we dropped to them. I believe pitching ahead to these fish before we got over them and before they were pinged with the sonar increased the chance they would bite. In August it is no surprise as these fish have been pressured and probably seen many baits dropped to them.
There you have it! Some of my thoughts from this past weekend about drop shotting. Hopefully these help you and your drop shot skills! If you want to get confident on the water then reach out to us to set up a session and be on the look out for registration for 2020 programs opening up this winter!